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January 03, 2013 09:27 AM

SD Supreme Court Rules In Berget Appeal

pierre, sd

The South Dakota Supreme Court has reversed the death sentence for Rodney Berget.

Berget pleaded guilty to killing Correctional Officer Ron "RJ" Johnson during a failed prison escape in 2011.  His attorney appealed the sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court October 1, 2012.

The state's high court decided the circuit court did not properly use statements Berget made to Dr. David Bean during a psychiatric evaluation before the sentencing.

In the decision, the justices say the defense had asked for the evaluation by Dr. Bean with the understanding that the circuit court and state would be provided copies of that evaluation, which would stay sealed unless Dr. Bean was called as a witness.  Since he was not called to the stand, the justices say the circuit court erred in referring to statements Berget made to Dr. Bean when sentencing Berget to death.  They say that was a violation of Berget's right against self-incrimination.

All other appeals by Berget's attorney were upheld.

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